Stereotypes still trip women's chances to lead

Washington, Jul 14 (IANS): Many women believe that stereotypes trip their chances when it comes to playing leadership roles, says a study.

But a new meta-analysis (integration of a large number of studies on the same subject) shows that even today leadership continues to be viewed as culturally masculine. Thus, women suffer from two primary forms of prejudice.

The implications of the meta-analysis are straight forward, said Alice Eagly, study co-author and professor of psychology at the Institute for Policy Research, Northwestern University, the US, the journal Psychological Bulletin reports.

"Cultural stereotypes can make it seem that women do not have what it takes for important leadership roles, thereby adding to the barriers that women encounter in attaining roles that yield substantial power and authority," she said, according to a Northwestern statement.

Women are viewed as less qualified or natural in most leadership roles, the research shows, and secondly, when women adopt culturally masculine behaviours often required by these roles, they may be viewed as presumptuous.

These reactions to women leaders reflect gender stereotypes.

Previous research found that predominantly "communal" qualities, such as being nice or compassionate, are associated with women, and predominantly "agentic" qualities, such as being assertive or competitive, are associated with men.

It is these agentic qualities that are believed to be essential to successful leadership. Because men fit the cultural stereotype of leadership better than women, they have better access to leadership roles and face fewer challenges in becoming successful in them.

The good news for women is that the project's analyses indicate that this masculine construal of leadership is weaker now than it was in earlier years.

Despite this shift toward more androgynous beliefs about leadership, it remains culturally masculine - just not as extremely so as in the past. However, this masculinity lessens somewhat for lower-level leadership positions and in educational organisations.


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